KMOX, St. Louis—As the Cardinals have crossed the midway point of the 2011 season and are still in the midst of a four team race in the central. Here’s a quick look back at the positives and negatives of the seaon.
On the down side:
1) Albert Pujols slow start to the season. When you look at Albert’s numbers in the first two months of the season a lot of players would take his stats. But Pujols isn’t just an ordinary player. Why did Pujols start slow? Who’s to know, but just when the Mang started to get his mojo back he gets injured. Here’s to a quick recovery and to #5’s swagger coming back.
2) The bullpen blows up. The Cards closer to start the season was Ryan Franklin and he was getting rocked. He eventually went to a mop up role and then to his eventual release. After Franklin’s demotion the Redbirds went from bullpen by committee to Fernando Salas. While things have settled a bit for the relief corps this is still an unsettling group that is going to need some outside help by the trade deadline.
3) Deadly defense. As a lifelong St. Louisan I don’t think I have seen as shoddy defense in all of my years than the one I’ve seen this season. During the Sports Hub a few weeks ago, I was discussing with my partner Mike Claiborne about the shortstop position. We noted that other than the one year Kahlil Greene experiment, you have to go back to the pre Gary Templeton days to find that position being fielded the way it is now. But all the blame isn’t on the shoulders of Ryan Theriot. There’s blame to go around the whole team.
On the plus side:
1) Lance Berkman. Has been one of the best offseason acquisitions in Major League Baseball. You can tell Berkman still has it when healthy. A wrist injury seems to be giving him problems and has slowed his production down lately. But the intangible is Lance has lightened up a stale locker room.
2) Kyle Lohse. Who is this guy? After signing a four year deal Lohse didn’t even look like an innings eater the past couple of years. But now Kyle may be better than he was before signing that deal and has given the starting rotation a big boost after Adam Wainwright’s injury in camp and absense this season.
3) Resilience. We all know Tony LaRussa’s motto is play a hard nine. Well there’s no doubt that this group does that and more. This is a club that has many flaws and has also faced a lot of adversity, but they still don’t back down. Not even the kids on this team. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Right now this is the second best managing job LaRussa has done in St. Louis. It’s only behind the ’02 season when Tony kept his group together despite the loss of Darryl Kile and Jack Buck.
As we look ahead to the second half of this season here’s some things I believe need to happen for some baseball in October in St. Louis:
1) Get healthy. Getting Albert back is the biggest bonus. But other contributors like Allen Craig will be a postive. And hopefully the rash of injuries will end.
2) Pitching consistency. This team needs both the starters and relievers to show better consistency. It looks like Carpenter has turned the corner which will help the rotation become steadier. The bullpen is the big question and finding help outside the organization may be the best alternative.
3) Defense, defense, defense. You can’t completely change this around, but an addition to stabilize things in the middle of your infield would be a big bonus.
Scott Warmann is a host on the Sports Hub